My Zimbio
Top Stories

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Bird deaths and the magnetic poles

Science Demystified
Bird Deaths and the Magnetic Poles

Posted by Cities of the Mind on January 12, 2011 · 2 Comments 

What’s Going On?
I mentioned last week that the mass bird deaths were not something to panic about, and in fact not too unusual. I stand by that, and I really think I put together a list of sources sufficient to convince anyone who’s approaching the question in an unbiased manner that such is the case.
However, one thing I discounted in a kneejerk fashion is that a pole shift is to blame. That was woefully insufficient, and in such broad terms, not necessarily true. Not everyone means the same thing when they use the term “Pole Shift” and the possibility I dismissed referred specifically to the doomsday predictions associated with a cataclysmic pole shift. This hypothesis proposes that sudden massive changes occur in the tilt of the earth, but there is insufficient evidence to support it occurring at all, particularly in the last quarter billion years. So it’s not pending.
Geographic Poles
So yes, the Geographic Pole is moving, but, as in many things, timing is everything, and this is taking place very slowly over a very long period of time. There is a (fairly) constant precession in the earth’s axis, and true polar wander. The thing about polar wander, which has fair amounts of theoretical and actual evidence to back it up, making it reputable theory, is that it is gradual. This is akin to the axis of the world (the North and South Poles) wandering slightly, about a single degree every million years. This is such a long time on a biological timescale that any shifts will most likely be entirely unnoticeable from the standpoint of an ecosystem.
Description of relations between Axial tilt (o...
See? So simple!
Magnetic Pole Shifts
This refers to a shift in the magnetic poles, which are not actually in any way attached to the geographic poles. Unlike the geographic poles, magnetic poles shift constantly and rapidly, relatively speaking. Right now the Magnetic North Pole is moving at about forty miles a year. Occasionally, the polarity itself can reverse (North becomes South, and so on) but this doesn’t actually move the earth.
If you hear someone insisting there’s evidence that poles have flipped before, and the whole earth is going to flip over destroying all life (likely in connection to 2012), they are confusing a Magnetic Pole flip with a Geographic Pole flip. Whether you want to tell them that or go find something better to do than argue with someone who is high and/or crazy, that’s up to you. Personally, I’d go make a sammich.

Image of a Better Choice via Wikipedia
However, it’s worth pointing out that a large shift (not, flip, just shift) could conceivably screw up a flock of birds in flight. If you want to find out more about magnetic poles, go to wikipedia and leeeeaaaaaarrrrrnnn.
How would it do that?
Birds have cryptochromes. So, now that that’s established let’s move on–what? You don’t know what the hell a cryptochrome is? Actually, you’re in good company there. And really, the whole story is worthy of a master’s thesis. Suffice to say, birds have little chemicals in some of their cells that work just like teeny compasses and allow the birds to see the earth’s magnetic field. And I don’t mean a figurative “see” either, I mean theyactually see it.
A sudden shift in a magnetic field might be a bit like putting prism goggles on. You may be familiar with prism goggles if you’ve been to college. Police and student organizations often give them to incoming Freshman under the pseudonym “drunk goggles”  to show just how fun being drunk can be. The tricky part is, after a few minutes our awesome, awesome, brains just adapt to them, and we start seeing the world pretty much as usual. Cool, right?
Well, imagine you were just driving along and someone slapped a pair over your eyes without warning and then stapled them to your head. You might have the sense to slam on the brakes and figure stuff out. Or you might accelerate into the nearest building or tree.
Is this what happened?
No idea. I’m no birdologist (ornithologist, if you’re curious about the correct term), however, it seems to be within the realm of possibility. Particularly given the magnetic pole moved enough to necessitate the recalibration of some compass-based airport landing systems the very same week. On the other hand, if this were the cause, I, personally, would have expected more bird deaths than we saw. Birds are, as a general rule, delicate creatures, being lightly built and susceptible to environmental stress–it wasn’t on a whim that they used canaries in the coal mines.
In the end we don’t know, and there’s an excellent chance we never will, and most importantly, it is not a sign of the apocalypse. If that’s what you’re looking for, I suggest you examine the popularity of reality television.

Search & Win

Links to this post

Anti-Aging: Turn the Clock Back!

No comments:

Post a Comment

10 Day Weight Loss Pills

Popular Posts



Curious about what the future holds? Click here to find out how you can receive a 10 minute psychic reading from Psychic Source. - The Best Free Online Calculatorн

Fine Art - Painting Lessons: Real Art!
What is Bio-Farming? Can anyone do it?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

My Zimbio
Top Stories
My Zimbio
Top Stories Get 100 FREE Visitors to Your Website!
eXTReMe Tracker
AyurCat for Cat Health Care